Rehab FAQs

man in group therapy

You have made the brave decision to do something proactive about your substance abuse, or perhaps you are supporting a loved one’s decision to do so. The unknown can be scary, so to help ease these concerns, we have compiled a list of commonly asked rehab questions such as, “What to bring to rehab?” with answers based on well-researched rehabilitation facts. Congratulations on taking the first important step on the path to recovery! We hope this information helps.

What Should I Bring With Me to Rehab?

To answer that question, one first has to consider what is inappropriate and should be left at home. The focus of drug rehab is on health and wellness, so you should not bring anything that might be counterproductive. Any items containing alcohol — including mouthwash — are forbidden. You should also leave jewelry, expensive personal effects (e.g. designer clothing, purses or excessive cash) at home. In addition, anything sexually overt or suggestive, from pornography to sexy clothing, has no place at rehab. The number and array of items you bring depends on your length of stay and the specific recreational programs offered (e.g. equestrian therapy and swimming). Moreover, every facility may have slightly different rules about what you can bring and what may be acceptable but subject to approval.1

General Checklist

  • Several casual, comfortable and season-appropriate outfits (enough for 30 to 90 days)
  • A few pairs of comfortable shoes, slippers and sandals for the shower
  • A jacket, sweatshirt and sweaters
  • A one-piece swimsuit for women and board shorts for men (no exceptions)
  • Exercise, recreation and hiking clothes
  • Personal hygiene products (e.g., toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant)
  • A couple of pictures of loved ones
  • Medications in original bottles with your name and instructions from the prescribing physician
  • Dietary supplements (e.g. vitamins or minerals), subject to approval
  • Important contact names, (e.g. physicians, lawyers and family members) with addresses and telephone numbers
  • Books, magazines, art supplies and a journal to write in, subject to approval
  • Personal pillow or blanket
  • Laptop (which will be held by staff and signed out at approved times)
  • As much as $100 cash and a credit/debit card to be held in an office safe until needed (e.g. outings)
  • Hair dryer
  • Laundry bag2

What Happens During Detox and How Long Does It Last?

When you are admitted to a rehab facility for substance abuse, the first important step is medically supervised detox. When drug or alcohol use is stopped, the body rids itself of toxins. Withdrawal symptoms may occur if use is abruptly stopped or reduced because the brain adapted and became accustomed to its presence. In general terms, detox includes pharmacotherapy, stabilization, tapering off of the drug and pharmacological cessation. The type of drug used for tapering therapy depends on the drug abused, although the medications used always have less potential for abuse than the original one. You may also be administered over-the-counter and prescription drugs to help control other common symptoms including diarrhea and headache or more serious side effects such as seizures.

The length of time varies based on the substance abused. Alcohol detox is a three-phase process. The first phase occurs over a period of a few days and is the most dangerous. It is within the first 72 hours that individuals are most at risk of suffering major withdrawal symptoms. The second and longer phase of alcohol detox occurs over months, as the brain slowly begins to regulate and resume normal functioning. There may be lingering symptoms during this phase, but they are usually not life-threatening. During the final phase, elevated anxiety and dysphoria (profound state of unease or dissatisfaction) may not be apparent, although normally insignificant challenges can provoke negativity, craving of alcohol and relapse.3,4

What Are the Different Stages of Rehab?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists four stages of rehab: treatment initiation, early abstinence, maintaining abstinence and advanced recovery. These apply specifically to cocaine, although the same basic principles pertain to all substance abuse. Treatment initiation starts when you are admitted to a rehab program. Many inpatient treatment programs have a duration of 90 days, which covers early abstinence. Generally speaking, the early recovery stage begins four months after rehab. During this period, a recovering addict continues to work on abstinence strategies to avoid environmental triggers, recognize psychosocial and emotional triggers and develop healthy coping mechanisms to handle daily stress. Advanced recovery from addiction requires a lifelong commitment to establishing a healthy lifestyle and living it on a daily basis.5,6

How Long Is Rehab and What Determines the Length of Stay?

There is not a set period of time for rehab, although most facilities offer 30-day stays and some also have 60-day and 90-day programs. To determine the appropriate length of treatment, addiction professionals take into consideration the history and severity of the addiction, specific substances used, any co-occurring medical, mental or behavioral health conditions, and the physical, mental, emotional, social, cultural and spiritual needs of the individual. Studies indicate clients who spend 90 days or longer in treatment programs have better rates of long-term sobriety. This is likely because they have more dedicated time to focus on the underlying causes of addiction and associated behaviors, learn new methods for avoiding triggers and establish healthier coping mechanisms.7

  1. What to Bring to Rehab. Dual Diagnosis website. Accessed March 6, 2017.
  2. Promises Austin website. What to Bring For Your Stay. Accessed March 6, 2017.
  3. Sachdeva A, Choudhary M, Chandra M.Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: Benzodiazepines and Beyond. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015 Sep;9(9): VE01–VE07. Published online 2015 Sep 1. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2015/13407.6538.
  4. Schmidt KJ, Doshi MR, Holzhausen JM, Natavio A, Cadiz M, Winegardner JE. Treatment of Severe Alcohol Withdrawal. Ann Pharmacother. 2016 May;50(5):389-401. doi: 10.1177/1060028016629161. Epub 2016 Feb 9.
  5. An Individual Drug Counseling Approach to Treat Cocaine Addiction: Chapter 6. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. Accessed March 6, 2017.
  6. An Individual Drug Counseling Approach to Treat Cocaine Addiction: Chapter 8. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. Accessed March 6, 2017.
  7. Frequently Asked Questions About Addiction Rehab. Rehabs website. Accessed March 6, 2017.


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